Today, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a colleague of mine over a delicious plate of fake Chinese food. He is a thoughtful, educated, self-aware, computer programmer who has a way of making people feel comfortable around him. He’s not presumptuous about anything and he is always open-minded, wanting to learn. I love hanging out with him.
As we scarfed down our sweet fire chicken breast and fried rice, our conversation quickly turned to our families and, in particular, our focus in educating our children. As we shared our priorities and our concerns, I found myself expressing thoughts I didn’t realize I had, some with great conviction. It reminded me that our thoughts, beliefs and values are often crystalized when we say them out loud. That’s my first encouragement for you: to communicate what’s going through your mind because you just might solidify a concept into a conviction just by sharing it with someone else.
What I heard myself sharing with my friend over lunch was my desire for my girls to learn three basic things, and to learn them well. I’d love to say these were groundbreaking, evolutionary educational philosophies, but it came back to the big three we heard when we were a kid: reading, writing & arithmetic. It’s true that a child who knows and loves to read, one who is able to communicate her thoughts in written words, and one who is able to use numbers to solve problems can learn anything in any other area of life. Certainly, education is about more than just those three skills. However, these are the foundations of developing an ability and a love for life-long learning.
Second, I heard myself sharing with great conviction my desire for my girls to learn through experiences, not just through acquiring knowledge about something. It’s one thing to read about the Declaration of Independence and see images of it online. It’s a whole other learning experience to see it in the National Archives in Washington D.C., or walk inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where it was drafted and signed. I don’t want my kids to learn through information gathering, but through seeing in first hand.
This year, our homeschool curriculum goes in depth regarding the creation of the universe, including the story of Noah’s Ark. This story can be found in Genesis 6, in which God gives Noah the instructions for building this massive ship. It was to be made of gopher wood, to be 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, and it was to be sealed with pitch. What an incredible structure this must have been, especially during the time in which it was built.
Hollywood has made movies in an attempt to bring the Ark to life for us, but that is still more of an exercise in collecting information to truly experiencing the vastness and the texture of Noah’s creation. However, there is a replica of the Ark located in Williamstown, Kentucky, a full-size model of the boat sitting in a field just a short 8-hour drive away from my home. So this fall, we are taking a long weekend to take our kids from the pages in their textbook to an experience they will never forget. It’s one thing to see the Ark in pictures. It’s a whole other experience to walk up and touch it with their own hands.
The last conviction I heard myself sharing was my strong belief that the best learning occurs when we’re having fun. Some people argue that learning has to take place in a quiet, serious environment free from distraction, and there may be some who thrive in that environment. However, what I found is that most people, including kids, retain information through experiences, particularly ones they enjoy. As one of my mentors once shared with me, “When you want people to learn, engage them through a story or alliteration, then give them the punchline, and while they’re laughing, shove the truth (info) down their throat!”
As my friend and I cracked open our fortune cookies and headed back to the office, I left our conversation with a renewed since of conviction about my kids’ education. I want to work harder to encourage a genuine love of learning, especially as they learn to read, write and work with numbers. I want to give them memorable experiences as they learn, and I want them to have fun while they learn, all because I shared my thoughts with a friend. I encourage you to do the same and see what convictions develop from your thoughts.